By Submitted Article on November 8, 2019.
REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, ALBERTA
THE WAR AMPS OF CANADA
As Remembrance Day approaches I want to pay tribute to the many service men and women who have and continue to fight for our freedoms today. Although I don’t have a military heritage in my family, I do have a connection to our veterans. As a double-arm amputee, I grew up benefiting from the War Amputations of Canada’s (The War Amps) Child Amputee (CHAMP) program.
The War Amps started after the First World War when some of the returning veterans, who had suffered amputation, started the organization to help support each other as they faced their new realities of being amputees. After the Second World War they welcomed in a new generation of amputee veterans. In 1946, they started the Key Tag program, which created meaningful employment for war amputee veterans and generated funds for the association. Today the Key Tag program has returned more than 1.5 million sets of keys to Canadians. It is a free service, but many recognize its value and choose to make a donation.
In the 1970s, members of the War Amps noticed there were many child amputees in Canada and wanting to provide support to them as well, the War Amps started the CHAMP program in 1975. My journey began with the War Amps after I was born missing both my arms at the shoulder. My birth left my parents with lots of questions and uncertainties of what my future would hold. The War Amps embraced us and became our second family. As a young child, I remember attending one of my first CHAMP seminars thinking I was the only little girl in the entire world that was missing her arms. To my amazement and relief, I learned that I was not alone in my struggles. At the CHAMP seminar I met other amputees like myself. I saw them smiling, running around, enjoying life and not letting their limb differences deter them from their ambitions. Attending seminars helped me learn to accept myself and to focus on what was left, not what was missing.
Some of our most influential CHAMP seminar attendees were amputee war veterans. They made special bonds with us child amputees and helped us realize life was going to be OK. I personally want to thank one amputee veteran in particular, Cliff Chadderton (1919-2003).
Cliff lost his leg during the Second World War and became involved with the War Amps upon his return. He worked tirelessly as their executive secretary for 44 years and under his leadership the War Amps went from a solely veteran-oriented organization to a charitable institution that represents all amputees in Canada. He was an incredibly busy man helping children, adults and veterans; yet he made it to as many CHAMP seminars as he could. I count myself very fortunate to be among some of the earliest members of CHAMP who saw him regularly at seminars and who admired his charisma, energy and innovation. He was like a grandpa to many of us and truly had a heart of gold!
I am grateful I get to continue to be involved with the War Amps and help carry on Cliff’s and the many other war amputee veterans’ legacy. Thank you not only for your sacrifices for our freedoms, but for dedicating yourself to making life better for all amputees. Last year we celebrated our 100th anniversary. I am certain if those early amputee veterans could see what the organization has become, they would be proud of what it does to advocate for Canadian amputees and that its members continue to adopt the philosophy of “amputees helping amputees.”
If you want to learn more about the War Amps and their programs, including their Key Tag program, please go to http://www.waramps.ca.
Annae Jones is a Lethbridge-based Regional Representative with The War Amputations of Canada.